Saturday, June 23, 2012

Trying to dance the hokey pokey

Bike Fed board ride in Milwaukee--before our meeting
"Are we obligated to know the important event of our time?  Or is the whole project of knowing, of being a part of society, neither moral nor immoral, but just a way to pass the time?  Is it enough to do no harm to the world, or do you have to contribute too?  I wanted to go toward the man-made heat and light, the cultural center, the heart of civilization.  At the same time, I didn't want to get off the boat."
                                                                                        -Elisabeth Eaves, Wanderlust

A warning to the reader, you are about to delve into the messy confines of what I call my brain.  Maybe you'll consider it a train wreck and can't look away, maybe you'll find cheap amusement in my struggle, or maybe you'll find some solace in knowing that you're not the only one that sees the world in this light.

Currently I am root bound.  I'm not used to being in one place for so long or being so deeply immersed into several parts of my community.  I don't see this as a bad thing, on the contrary, it's beautiful.  It's just that I'm not used to this way of living since my husband and I considered ourselves "nomads" for so many years, and I'm a bit afraid I'll never be able to find my way back to the type of freedom we once had. 

Our furry child
For the past ten years, we have called Madison our home--six have been in the house we live in today.  I have been working at the same health club for eight of those years and my husband has been at his place of employment for six.  We have a cat, we know and love our neighbors, my husband is on the neighborhood board and I am on the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation board.  We volunteer for community events and love the cycling community that we've become a part of.  I am heavily steeped in the local political scene--some say too much.  I can also say that my cup runs over with some of the kindest friends I've ever had.  Something, however, is missing.  Right now both of my feet are inside the circle, along with my arms.  In fact, I don't think I've stepped out of the circle, nor has my husband, for some time now.  We need a change.  We need adventure.

Although my husband and I just had a conversation about this whole topic, and we share similar views, there is no way I can be inside his brain so from this point on in the post, I will just speak for myself.

The freedom of carrying everything on my back
What brought all of this to the forefront of my mind?  Partly, it's because I just finished a book called "Wanderlust"--not the best book but it tapped into some primal feelings. The other part has to do with not knowing my "purpose" in life.  I know what makes me happy.  That's the easy part.  What I don't know is if how I'm contributing to society really helps.  Part of what makes me happy is being a part of something bigger than myself.  That's one of the reasons (there are many) I decided to run for the position of board member for the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation.  It's also why I canvass for politicians I admire.  I would like to think the time I put in makes the world a better place...but does it really?  Would simply living my life in a way that I would do the smallest amount of harm be, in a way, better?  I think back to my wilderness guiding days and the first rule was "leave no trace".  On several occasions, I came across a pile of firewood left by boy scouts in the BWCA with a note attached saying that it was left for people to use by troop ###.  They thought they were helping others out, when what they were really doing is causing harm to the environment.  I don't blame them.  I know on many occasions I have done something with similar results.  I just don't want to feel the need to fill my time,for the sake of filling my time, with something that doesn't really make a difference.

What does all of this have to do with biking you ask (since this is a bike blog)? Well, I'm trying to strip things down to the basics.  Get rid of the extraneous things in my mind and in my day to day living.  My husband once had a dream of carrying everything he owned on his back for a year--including the trash he produced.  I love him for this.  It's one of the reasons I was drawn to him so many years ago and am still.  What I'm trying to say is I want to live a simpler life so I have the mental and physical ability to wander.  I want to be able to roam on two wheels, around my neighborhood, throughout the state and across the world.  I want to be able to stay connected with my community (both biking and living) and yet have time to dream and get lost.

I will bike many miles to visit baby goats!
For those of you who know me, I'm sure I sound like a walking contradiction right now.  I have spoken so many times of wanting a goat farm (pigs and chickens have also been added to that list) and I would love to grow most of our food.  This is where it gets tricky.  If we live out in the country, we have to drive everywhere.  No more quick jaunts down to the grocery store for food by bike.  No more spinning down to the local brewery to meet friends.  By living what seems to be a very simple life, really isn't at all.  We also wouldn't be able to travel because caring for animals is a year round job.  I would actually guess my bike would gather dust, and that is NOT the way I would want to live.

So how do I continue to contribute in ways I know make a difference and still strip down?  That is the question of the year...maybe even the next several years.  This is all a bit too "heady" for me.  In fact, I'm sure I just wasted ample wandering time by writing and pondering all of  this.  So, this is where I'll sign off.  Lost, a bit confused and still inside the circle. 


  1. Thanks Meetul! As I said yesterday, just cruising through my 20-30 years of midlife crisis :)

  2. This is probably too much, but you could read this.